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healed any perfon in private, without thus direct ing him to notify the cure he then enjoined fe crecy to him, on purpose to obviate all poffible fufpicions of art and contrivance.
As he had lived, so he died in public; expired upon a crofs, in the top of an eminence near Fer rufalem. When buried, he had a pubic guard fet upon his grave, and he arofe from thence in the prefence of that very guard, and to their a ftonishment. He appeared afterwards to five hun dred brethren at once, to the twelve difciples fre quently; eat, drank and converfed with them for forty days, and was at laft taken up into heaven in their fight, by a flow and leifurely afcent,
In all refpects and circumstances, the gospel of Chrift fhewed itself to proceed from the great Father of Lights, in whom is no darkness at all; it was established upon proofs, as authentic, public, and folemn, as can well be imagined; bright, evident, and powerful, as the fun at noon day. As its Founder once appealed to his difciples, and faid, Handle me, and fee; for a fpirit bath not flefo and bones, as ye fee me have; Luke xxiv. 39. fo may the doctrine itfelf make a like challenge to its enemies, and fay; "Handle me, and fee; for "delufion and impofture hath not fuch fubftantial "evidences, fo open, ocular and fenfible a de"monftration to boast of, as I have."-This thing was not done in a corner.
I. Secondly, Having thus briefly explained and illuftrated the truth contained in thefe words, I fhall now apply myfelf to (what I chiefly intended) the drawing from thofe feveral ufeful obfervations and
and improvements with which it will furnish us. And the
1. First Ufe I will make of it, fhall be, to fhew from thence, how great an advantage the Chriftian religion hath, on this account, over all other religions, whether true or false! not excepting even the difpenfation of Mafes.
is true, fcarce any religion ever fet up in the world, without pretending, fooner or later, to derive its authority from miracles But then, either those miracles (as they are called) have been acted confeffedly in fecret; or, if they are faid to have been done in public, yet the account, which was given of them, came too late to deferve credit, or to leave room for a disproof. And in both thefe cafes the pretence to them is very fufpici
Thus, in the firft inftance, Numa's nightly conferrences with a goddefs, was a figment, for which the people of Rome had his word only; the truth of the whole tranfaction was refolved into his fingle teftimony. And fuch was Mahomet's vain boast of his receiving feveral chapters of his Alcoran from the angel Gabriel; for he wrought no public miracle to enforce this private one; nor did he, that we can learn, pretend to the power of working any. On the contrary, when miracles were demanded of him, he at firft (as his followers have done ever fince) appealed to the Alcoran itself, as to the greatest and most convincing miracle; which. was written (he faid) in fuch a manner, as to carry upon it the plain ftamp and evidence of its own divine authority. And this was the only way in which
which he could make out his intercourse with the angel Gabriel.
Thus again, the feveral idolatrous religions, in the East and Weft-Indies, are faid to have receiv ed their fanction from miracles done by the first authors and founders of them: But then the re porters of thefe facts are fo much later than the facts themselves, that 'tis impoffible to have any rational affurance concerning the reality of them: [Their Mango-Copal, Amida. Brama, and Zaca, are fuppofed to have atchieved wonder] at a time when their was no way of tranfmitting accounts of them to pofterity, but by memory alone, and fome thousands of years before there could be any written monuments of them. Now this, I fay, is to build the proof of divine truths upon the certainty of fome accounts, whereof men can never be certain; it is to establish the belief of a revelation upon things done, or faid to be done, in a corner, and which require a new revelation to make them credible.
The Jewish religion was indeed published by God in a very open and folemn manner, before a whole nation, with thunders and lightnings, and the found of heavenly trumpets, on the top of mount S ni. Yet ftill infidelity finds room to object, that the truth of this revelation depends upon the testimony of friends only; and that the fcene of it is laid in a place, where nobody could be prefent, but the perfons concerned to fupport the account whether true or falfe. And fhould have been inclined to contraany of these persons dict it, yet they could not; because the whole race of them perifhed in the wildernefs, ere a
correfpondence was yet opened between them, and any other people.
Such objections, 'tis true, are of no weight, laid in the balance with the evidence given for the truth of thofe facts; yet it is fome advantage to the proof of Gofpel miracles, not to be liable even to thefe little exceptions, and on no fide to lie open to any doubts or füfpicions whatfoever. And from hence we may take occafion to confider alfo in the.
2. Second place, how inexcufable they are, who, notwithstanding that open, inconteftable manner in which the divine authority of the gofpel was manifefted, continue ftill to ftand our against it; to refift, and even to deride, the ut moft efforts made by an omnipotent arm to wards afferting the miffion of Jefus ; parallel them with the mock wonders of Satan, and the im postures of false prophets; and to infinuate, as if they were all equally done by collufion. Such was he, whofe name ought not to be mentioned without reproach, and whom therefore I fhall not mention; but his words are thefe; "If we "look (fays he) upon the impoftures wrought by "confederacy, there is nothing, how impoflible "foever to be done, that is impoffible to be be "lieved. For two men confpiring, the one to "feem lame, the other to cure him with a charm,' "will deceive many; but many confpiring, one of to feem lame, another to cure him, and all the "reft to bear wittnefs, will deceive more.” Which® was intended to fuggeft, that the miraculous cures recorded in the gofpel, were not really cures, but cheats, and concerted between the feeming objects'
and authors of them; though the relation of feveral of thefe cures be, as I fhewed before, fo circumftanced, as to make this account of them, not only ridiculous, but impoffible. He might as we have pretended to explain the miracle of our Saviour's giving eyes to the blind by reafoning on the medicinal virtues of the clay and the fpittle employed on that occafion.
The men who talk at this rate (as, I fear, many men now do, and that openly, and not in a corner) who can bring themfelves thus to confound the plainest marks of truth and falfhood, reality and impofture; and to impute the most clear and demonftrative proofs that ever were given of a divine power, to confederacy and a juggle; fuch men, I fay, are inexcufable upon all the accounts of right reafon an 1 good fenfe; and incurable by all further methods of proof that can poffibly be addreffed to them. They are ipfidels not becaufe they want fufficient grounds of conviction, but becaufe they refolve not to be otherwife. To no purpose is it to dif pute with them about these foundations of our faith; to no purpofe is it to exhort, befeech, perfuade, or reprove them: "Their eyes are fhut, "that they cannot fee; and their ears stopped, "that they cannot hear; and their hearts hard "as the nether mill-ftone." Our reafonings of this kind may indeed be of fome use, in respect of thofe, who are yet untainted with the principles of infidelity; and may ferve to keep fuch free from the infection: But, to fuppofe that any good can be done by them upon thofe, who pretend to have weighed the evidence of the VOL. III. B